Before I launch into my best and worst here are the qualifications: all the beers listed were tried for the very first time in 2016. It does not matter when the beer was released, only that I tried it for the very first time in calendar year 2016. Please note that the bottom ten are mostly styles that I tried and did not like and are not a slam on the brewery or the beer, just not my cup of tea for whatever reason (although there are a couple of combinations that really should not have been tried in my opinion).
Going to flip it this year and list the best 10 first since I am trying to be more optimistic going into 2017:
Don’s Top 2016 Beers
#10 Epic Brewing Big Bad Baptist
For some unknown and insane reason, I avoided Bourbon Barrel Aged (BBA) stouts for much of 2015. Then I got the taste for them again when I had a Heresy by Weyerbacher. I started trying other BBA stouts. Brownie told me that Big Bad Baptist from Epic Brewing Co. was a winner. I figured it would be harder to find than a Trump supporter in Hollywood but to my surprise it is very available. It is also not outrageously expensive for a bomber. Good news all around because this beer ranks right up there with my holy trinity of BBA stouts; Bell’s Black Note, Founder’s KBS and Lagunitas High Westified Imperial Coffee Stout. Go get you some, you will not regret it.
#9 Epic Big Bad Baptista/Clown Shoes Luchadore En Fuego
This is a tie for #9 because these beers were almost identical. I found the Baptista when I was hunting for 2016 Bourbon County and I had the Luchadore at a bar with Easy E. In both cases I was happy that I got them. I regret not buying a couple more Baptistas when I had the chance. Luchadore is retired. Both of these beers are pretty rich and not for the faint of heart (or the calorie conscious). Big chocolate and spice notes but the barrel aging brings it all together nicely.
#8 Westvleteren 12
This beer was part of a grand experiment documented on SommBeer. I ordered these “Westies” to see if they were as good as St. Bernardus ABT 12 and because many people say the Westie 12 is the best beer on earth. I had to put this beer on the list because it was really good, but mostly because it was outrageously expensive and if I mention it in two blog posts instead of one, the return on investment is better. If you like Belgian Quadruples, then you will love this beer. Spoilers – St. Bernardus was almost identical so save yourself the trouble and the money, unless you are planning to go to Europe and can make a stop at the monastery.
#7 Short’s Double Magician
Short’s produces a lot of beers throughout the year. This one was a pleasant surprise for me. I bought it to fill out a mixed six at my local but did not have much hope for it. Then I tried it, and went back the next day for more. Outstanding. Have had it on draft a few times too and it is a new favorite of mine that I will look for every year. Sometimes the brown ale varieties can be a little lackluster. Double Magician really amps up the style but keeps it totally drinkable.
#6 Victory XX Anniversary Imperial Pilsner
Victory makes some seriously great beers. This pilsner was amazing. I like pilsners and I don’t drink them enough. I will fix this in 2017. Lagunitas Imperial Pilsner is also really solid. The higher ABV in the Imperial Pilsners leads to a much more flavorful pilsner. Look for ones with bigger hop profiles and you are really in for a treat.
#5 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine (not infected)
There are some things I do that make absolutely no sense. There are also some beer styles I avoided for no reason at all. One style was the barleywine ale. I am not sure why but I just skipped them. I never got the barleywine from Goose Island because I thought I did not like barleywines but what the heck, bourbon barrel aging makes everything better right? Well in this case, it caused me to become a fan of a style I should have known I would love; the barleywine ale. This is one of the best when it is not infected…more on that later. I am now a major fan of barleywines. New Holland makes a BBA wheatwine called Pilgrim’s Dole that I also tried for the first time in 2016. Pilgrim’s Dole is outstanding so if you see some around, pick it up.
#4 Three Floyd’s Alpha Kong
This beer is described as a “Belgian Quintuple” and was listed as retired on the Three Floyd’s website so when one of my mules (his nickname is Tony Soprano, and this is his first appearance in print) told me they had Alpha Kong in bottles when he stopped at Three Floyd’s I asked him to grab two. I split one with Easy E. and drank one all by myself (technically my dog was in the backyard with me so I did not drink alone). Amazing. Hard to explain what it is but if you can get your hands on one, do it. It is a Belgian beer experience like none other. Almost made up for Dark Lord.
#3 Clown Shoes Bluegrass Billionaire
The year of the barleywine continued with this major offering from Clown Shoes. Got lucky and found the last one on the shelf. Clown Shoes is very underrated in my humble opinion. I have not had a bad beer from them. This one was no exception. They do cool things like single state releases where they brew special beers for single state distribution, and they stick to the styles they are good at. I have not seen many crazy combinations. I recommend this brewery wholeheartedly and loved this beer. It was boozy and made me feel very warm inside. I recommend that you don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go after you drink it though because it packs quite a punch.
#2 Perrin No Rules
I don’t drink many porters even though they are close cousins to stouts. There is a subtle difference in taste that pushes me towards stouts. So when I saw this beer, I only bought one. Then I read John’s review on SommBeer and started to wish I had bought more. Then I tried it and definitely regretted only having one bottle. This was ridiculously good and if I had not saved my Project Pam for 2016 this beer would have been #1. So much going on, but so well-balanced. Flavor for days with a nice ABV. Solid. May have changed my mind about porters.
#1 Founders Project Pam
I did not have high expectations for this beer. I have tried BBA IPA’s before and they are just OK. This was a black IPA and it was aged in bourbon and maple syrup barrels so there was hope. I was traveling when Project Pam was released but thank goodness the beer guy at my local saved one for me. I tried it and was blown away by this beer. Easily the best new beer I had in 2016 (was released in late 2015 but I did not try it until ’16). I got another one as a gift for guest lecturing for Easy E and shared that one with Brownie because I felt like that would be good karma. So good wish I could get more. I will go likely go to any Founder’s tapping where this beer is on the list as it is worth battling the crowds.
Don’s Bottom 2016 Beers
Now for the beers in 2016 that really let me down.
#10 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine (infected)
This is the first beer to appear in both my top and bottom list. I did not drink a lot of barleywines until last year. I ended up with two BCBCBW’s on Black Friday. I had the first one in January and it was amazing (see above). I waited to have the second one until October. I decided to drink it on one of the last warm Friday evening this fall and I looked forward to it all day. I got home and poured it and right away I knew something was not right. There was no head at all, and there was a strange sediment swirling on top of the beer. Then I tasted it and WOW, off in a major way. For a second I questioned my taste memory of the last BCBBW I had but hen I went online and saw that there were a few bad batches that were infected with bacteria.
I did not submit the beer for a refund but Goose Island did offer them. I was so bummed I just dumped the bottle and tossed it out. I needed a batch number to get the refund so I was out of luck. I was more bummed because I did not get to drink another one of these amazing beers. When something like this happens it amazes me that beer producers don’t have more quality issues like this one considering how many things can go wrong in this mostly natural process. Hats off to those that can brew in volume and keep high quality standards, including Goose Island…most of the time.
#9 Founders Lizard of Koz
I shared this beer with Brownie and tried so hard to like it. At one point I even said, “If I take small sips it is not so bad”. That sounds like someone trying to justify abusive behavior. I won’t go as far as to say this beer was abusive, but I will say it was a bit indulgent and as evidenced by all the bottles I am seeing on shelves, maybe not so popular. I have one aging next to one of last year’s bottom 10 – Big Luscious. If you have a great stout that you want to age in bourbon and maple syrup barrels why not make the stout that everyone is begging for – Canadian Breakfast Stout. Instead you have to throw blueberries in it. I know I know, it was a Birthday beer for the head brewer’s sister but still…
#8 Stroh’s Original Formula
There was a lot of nostalgia surrounding this beer but it was just not good. Dave from SommBeer dumped his. I finished my single bottle and then joined Dave in antagonizing and chiding John from SommBeer into drinking a six pack. John loved it and drank 6 in one sitting. He survived; we were amazed.
#7 Shorts Nicie Spicie
I knew this was a bad idea but so many people told me to try it and I am a sucker for peer pressure. Not Short’s fault, it tasted just as described and I had to dump it.
#6 Sierra Nevada Otra Vez
Easy E is constantly trying to get me to like sours. I can’t. This was his gateway drug to sours and it did not take. Dumped it. Sorry, just don’t like sours or sour type beers. Maybe as I get older and my taste buds continue to die I will be able to handle them but until then I have to stop trying.
#5 Founders Coffee Joe
I love coffee. I love IPA’s. Why do they taste so badly together? Dumped it.
#4 Deschutes The Abyss
I read the label and I had my doubts. Plus it was a pretty expensive bottle. Black strap molasses had me concerned and I should have trusted my gut. I choked this down because I am stubborn and gave the other one away (yeah I bought 2…got hit by the second arrow on this one) to someone with no taste that said they liked it. Kidding they had no tongue. Kidding again, they just liked it.
#3 Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Stout
I already ranted about this beer in a previous SommBeer post likening it to Kikoman Soy Sauce. I think part of the issue was it was my first bad beer from Three Floyd’s. It was like finding out there was not Santa or seeing someone you idolize showing you that they are human after all. I am not going to blame the alleged alien abduction for altering my taste buds either, this beer is a dud. At least I have 3 more…
#2 New Holland Dragon’s Milk Reserve Vanilla Chai
This was a flyer because I rarely like tricked out beers like this. But my beer guy at my local saved some for me so I bought a single and gave it a shot. If I had not tried the #1 beer on my countdown this would easily have been my most disgusting beer of the year but it was beaten by…
#1 Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Aged Sarsaparilla 666
I knew this was a bad idea but I figured that bourbon barrel aging would fix anything, right…even if you mix a root beer like substance into a beer. Of course I know that is not true but still put this disgusting liquid in my mouth. Might be the worst beer I have ever tasted. Not only did I dump it, I had an exorcism at my house the following weekend just in case.
So there you have it, my top and bottom for 2016. I had some amazing beers that did not make the list in 2016 but every beer can’t win. If every beer got a “participation ribbon” and there were no winners and losers imagine what would happen to the industry and maybe even society.